The value of water is realised when it is returned to nature. A look by S. Vishwanath

The open well close to Jakkur in Karnataka is a beautiful structure. It is at least 50 years old and was built in the old style of dry stone pitching.

The city then crept in and farming was given up as an occupation. The land was rented out and the renters of the small rooms built on the land, drew water from the well using buckets and a pulley. Times changed and now there is a water scarcity in the city. Construction works need water and are not provided for by the piped network. Apartments have sprung up and they need enormous quantities of water.

The well has now been ‘auctioned’ for Rs. 15,000 a month to a water tanker operator. He now extracts water using a pump and has sunk a small tube-well within the open well too. Water is now a commodity and its value is Rs. 100 a kilo-litre. The water in the well is being treated as a private resource whereas in truth it should be treated as a community property resource.

In actuality a waste-water treatment plant funded by the State treats and releases waste-water into the Jakkur lake, which too has been redone with public funds. These public investments recharge the aquifer all around and keep the wells with water. The extraction of the water is however private.

The key challenge for the institutions is to regulate this withdrawal of water in a sustainable fashion and to draw enough through cess and tax to keep the ecosystem running in a way that the lake is always full and the waste-water treated.

Public funds invested should generate public good and not private benefits.